First UN monitors arrive in Damascus

2012-04-16 08:43

Geneva - The first six UN military observers who will monitor a shaky cessation of hostilities in Syria arrived in Damascus late on Sunday, a UN spokesperson said.

"They've arrived and they will start work tomorrow morning," Kieran Dwyer, a spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping department, said.

The six are the first of 30 monitors who were approved by the UN Security Council on Saturday.

"The other monitors in the advance party are still expected in Syria in coming days," Dwyer added.

The first group will set up a headquarters and prepare routines so that the mission can verify that a cessation of hostilities, started on Thursday, between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and opposition fighters is holding.

Syrian forces reportedly killed five civilians in shelling of rebel areas and clashes with gunmen in the hours before the arrival of the first monitors. UN leader Ban Ki-moon raised strong concerns about the continuing violence.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan eventually wants more than 200 observers in Syria, but the Security Council has said the full mission can only go if the violence halts.

The UN says more than 9 000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against Assad started 13 months ago.